Siem Reap, Cambodia, 18th Sep 2012 - 19th Sep 2012
In a region bound together by the 4,900 km-long Mekong River with a vast network of tributaries, fluctuating water levels have brought about disasters and difficulties directly affecting the livelihoods of people.
Immense and sudden rises in water levels trigger floods, washing away lives and livelihoods and can also cause great harm to infrastructure, agriculture and industrial production. As a recurring event, flooding in certain years has taken a huge toll on people and the economies of the Mekong countries.
Low water levels, on the other hand, make it difficult for farmers, fishermen and communities to access much needed water, making their source of revenue more precarious and raising the risk of disease from using polluted sources. Riverine transportation for trade and tourism can also be disrupted by decreased water levels.
To reduce vulnerability and ensure those affected are kept abreast of changing water cycles, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) delivers near-real time data on water levels and rainfall from its regional monitoring network.
Timely forecasting and warnings of water levels can mitigate disaster risks such as floods and drought and help benefit navigation, agriculture and fisheries among others.
The Mekong Hydrological Cycle Observation System or Mekong-HYCOS, collects rainfall and water level data from 49 observing stations in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam and China. The information is then distributed to government agencies in charge of water operations as well as to the MRC’s Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
This network, as an efficient, reliable and accurate data collection and transmission system, enables the countries to share and exchange hydro-meteorological information. It also helps them to better forecast floods and drought and then issue warnings to communities in a timely manner.
With near real-time data of the Mekong-HYCOS, risks and vulnerability facing communities in the Mekong River Basin are reduced.
National flood forecasting agencies and the MRC’s Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre have capitalised on the information from the network, improving their flood forecasting capability. This was most notably seen during the devastating floods of 2011 where flood warnings were sent out ahead of time thus saving lives and property.
The information also helps managers of river transportation better plan safe and navigable routes during certain times of the year.
In the Mekong Delta where rising sea levels caused by climate change are taking their toll, the network’s data will be useful for the design of adaptation measures such as dikes.
Considering increasing development trends in the region, the need for this shared hydro-meteorological data is obvious. Hydrological projects cannot be started without an in-depth knowledge of water levels and flows.
The Mekong-HYCOS is an MRC project operated by the Information and Knowledge Management Programme (IKMP). Since 2006, it has upgraded existing hydro-meteorological stations in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam and China with state of-the-art equipment and tools as well as operating systems to meet the standards of the World Meteorological Organization, the project’s partner. The project also installed new posts in the countries.
Currently, there are 49 stations throughout the region, 17 on the mainstream, 30 on the tributaries and 2 tidal stations in the Mekong Delta. These stations share raw data on rainfall and water levels through the MRC’s data sharing platform. Moreover, the MRC’s Flood Management and Mitigation Programme and national flood forecasting agencies use the data for their flood modelling and trigger flood warnings if waters reach critical levels. Near real-time flood forecasting information is also available on the MRC’s website: http://www.mrcmekong.org.
The Mekong-HYCOS is funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM).
Presentations will be available for download soon.
Apsara Angkor Resort and Conference Hotel,
Siem Reap, Cambodia
18-19 September 2012